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Supreme Court restores manslaughter conviction in Regina child starvation case

Kevin Goforth will go back to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal as sentence reduction considered
The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in Ottawa, on Thursday, June 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the conviction of a foster father in the starvation death of one child and the near death of her sister who were both in his and his wife’s care.

The high court restored Kevin Goforth’s convictions of manslaughter and negligence causing bodily harm after hearing arguments Tuesday.

Written reasons for the decision will be issued at a later date, the Supreme Court said.

Goforth’s case will go back to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to consider a bid to reduce his sentence.

His convictions were overturned in February in a split decision by the Court of Appeal, but it unanimously upheld the conviction and sentence for his wife, Tammy Goforth.

In 2016, Tammy Goforth was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of the four-year-old girl and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years. She was also found guilty of negligence causing bodily harm.

The jury acquitted Kevin Goforth of second-degree murder but convicted him of the lesser offence of manslaughter and negligence causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to 15 years.

The girls were in foster care when they were rushed to a Regina hospital in 2012 and found to be severely malnourished, dehydrated and covered with bruises. The four-year-old died of a brain injury following cardiac arrest and her sister, who was two at the time, survived.

They had been in the Goforth’s care for nine months.

The Court of Appeal called evidence of prolonged neglect and starvation of the children “extremely disturbing.”

Kevin Goforth testified in his trial that he worked out of the home six days a week, leaving before the children got up and returning an hour or so before their bedtime.

“He denied seeing the children without their clothes on. He stated he had not seen their injuries, but that Ms. Goforth had told him about them,” the Appeal Court decision said.

“He said he believed his spouse when she told him the children were just sick and he claimed to have had no direct knowledge of their health problems.”

Two of the three Court of Appeal judges found that the trial judge erred in her jury instructions regarding Kevin Goforth and the basis on which jurors could find he had failed to provide the necessaries of life to the children.

“There is a reasonable possibility that the errors we have identified in the charge may have misled the jury,” the judges wrote in their majority decision.

“It cannot be said that the outcome of the trial on the charges against Mr. Goforth would necessarily have been the same if these errors had not occurred.”

In upholding Tammy Goforth’s conviction, the judges said she was the primary caregiver of the girls, managed the day-to-day undertakings in the household and dealt with social workers.

“Ms. Goforth testified she had been providing food to the children and had not deprived them of sustenance. She told Mr. Goforth the children were just sick,” they wrote in their decision.

“It was primarily her decision not to seek medical care for the children.”

— Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press